Friday, February 10, 2012

Saving money on Amazon.com Groceries

OK, that blog title sounded like a spam email! Oops!

Justin and I both have Amazon Visa Rewards credit cards, which offer cash rewards that are useable at Amazon. I use my card for pretty much everything I buy. (We never carry a balance on a card - we pay it off every month.) So our cash rewards build up at a pleasing rate! I use the reward points to "purchase" a lot of things that we use around the house, and I wanted to share how we accomplish it, as well as some of my favorite Amazon grocery items.

Disclaimer: I also believe it's very important to shop locally as much as I can. And we still purchase the bulk of our foods from local grocers, especially meat and produce and dairy. But some things can be hard to find, and because eating real food can be expensive, we have to save money when we can. I like to think our savings from shopping on Amazon helps fund our local and organic meats and veggies!

First of all, here are some of the things I purchase regularly (usually with points, but not always). Each photo and link (affiliate links) will take you to that listing on Amazon.



Organic coconut oil - two 54 ouce tubs. This lasts me a while! Sometimes they'll go on sale, and I'll stock up even more. I've never seen the large tubs at a local store, just the small ones. So this is quite a bit cheaper than buying it locally, especially when you use a lot of it. Here's a blog I wrote about the reasons I love coconut oil.

  




Canned tuna. I don't use many canned foods, but these cans are BPA-free. Wild Planet also uses the species of tuna that has the least mercury in it, and that tuna is sustainably harvested. So my three concerns with canned tuna are taken care of with this particular brand.





Organic cocoa powder. This comes in a set of two bags, and we go through it faster than you might imagine. The price isn't much different than grocery store cocoa, but it's organic, and hey, if it's free with our points, I'll take it.







Organic gelatin - a set of two canisters. This is great healthy nutrition! I use it to make jello, and I also sprinkle it into broth based soups for added nutrition. It's only from pastured animals, so you know it's the good stuff. I don't buy cheap gelatin from anyplace else, so I can't say how the price compares exactly.

 





Vitamin D gelcaps. You can get them at the store in pill form for a little less money, but the gelcals are a lot easier to swallow. However, I'm not getting this anymore because we're taking fermented cod liver oil capsules. So that's where we're getting our Vitamin D (and a whole lot of other great stuff too). But I purchased these capsules a couple of times. We took 2 each day, for 4000 IU.






Organic maple syrup. This goes on sale sometimes, and usually I wait until it does. You can also get 15% off by doing Subscribe and Save, which you have to use points differently (I'll explain that later). We use syrup to sweeten most things (ice cream especially) so we go through a lot of it.






Organic coconut milk. I love this stuff and use it in soups, stir fries, smoothies, and even in coffee (YUM!). I believe this is also a BPA-free can - which is another reason why I buy it on Amazon. I haven't found coconut milk in BPA-free cans locally. There's also coconut oil in the top of each can, so I use that for sauteeing (if I'm going to open the can anyways).

  






Coconut flour. A great price since this is a package of 4 bags. A little goes a long way in baking, so you won't go through it as quickly as you think.






We've also purchased fair trade coffee on Amazon (we LOVED Ethical Bean Coffee - we got it on a great sale though), although we're finding fair trade coffee locally now. You can find some good deals on raw/organic honey too, as well as other flours and baking goods. Other things you could shop for: tea, herbs and spices, cookbooksnuts, BPA-free canned foods, probiotics, sugardried fruit...pretty much any nonperishables can be purchased for a great price at Amazon.

Some tips to help maximize your Amazon grocery shopping:
  • Sign up for an Amazon Rewards card, and use it for everything. Easy peasy!
  • Use your Amazon card on anything you pay for on Amazon. Triple points!
  • Use Subscribe and Save to save 15% on most grocery items. You can cancel your subscriptions anytime and still keep the savings.
  • I'm not a Mom so I haven't signed up, but Amazon Mom gives moms and child care givers great deals on baby and kid stuff!
  • If you're using Subscribe & Save (most grocery items have this!), use paper gift certificates, instead of using "Shop with Points". "Shop with Points" isn't valid if you're doing Subscribe & Save. So have a little patience, and use the points to order actual paper gift certificates, so then you can use both at the same time.
  • Wait until things go on sale, then use your points AND Subscribe & Save. It's like double couponing! I usually rely on my favorite blogs to alert me to such sales, but you can also set up email alerts for deals on grocery items or other types of things.
I hope this has been helpful to you! I love getting boxloads of free groceries and I hope you'll look into it yourself.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Spaghetti Squash + Kale + Bacon - a quick, healthy and tasty recipe

I'm really hoping to blog more recipes and include photos of my food. I really do love food, and photography, and eating. So food/recipe blogging is an awesome combination of some of my favorite things! Since I'm not really a recipe person (I don't do well following OR writing them), my "recipes" are more like flexible and forgiving guidelines than anything.

One of the main ways I make meals is to combine what I have into one bowl. I've made this combination of spaghetti squash, kale and bacon several times. It's even husband-approved (though I suspect that owes more to the bacon than anything). When I make it for two and don't need leftovers, I use half of what's called for here...so I guess this would be about 4 adult servings. Adjust the amounts, of course, based on how many you're feeding, etc.

you'll need just a few things:
  • 2/3 bunch dinosaur kale (the curly kind works too but I prefer the flat kind here)*
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 pound bacon, chopped small (we get pastured bacon from Robinette Farms!)
  • chopped garlic if you're feeling fancy
  • salt and pepper
First, cook the squash. It's easiest to use the microwave. Heat the whole thing for one minute to soften it, then cut lengthwise and put each half (cut side down) in a glass pan with a little water in the bottom. Microwave for about 12 minutes. Easy-peasy! (My microwave is only big enough for one half at a time, so I have to do it twice.)

While the squash is cooking, chop your bacon and get it frying it in a large skillet. Chop the kale into smallish pieces and set aside.

Once your squash is cooked, scrape out the "noodles" and put them right in individual serving bowls. 

Your bacon should be about ready, and most of the fat should be rendered into liquid. (Don't drain it - that's some tasty and healthy saturated fat there!) When it's done cooking, take the pan off the heat and add the kale into the pan. (If you chopped garlic, toss it in there at this point too.) Stir the kale quickly, just till it gets bright and soft. Don't overcook the poor kale.

Spoon the kale/bacon combination over the waiting squash. Then be really generous with the salt and pepper over the top. (I'm sure a few shavings of parmesan would be a pretty spectacular addition!) That's it!



*Here's a tip for storing cut kale, chard, romaine lettuce, or any other stemmed green: When you get it home, cut the ends off and put it into a pitcher/glass of water, just like you would cut flowers. Keep your "arrangement" in the fridge. The greens will soak up the water and be SUPER crispy and last a very long time. I also rescue "tired" (and often heavily discounted) lettuces and greens from the store and easily revive them in this manner. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

winds of change & remembering

It's been a few months shy of a year since I wrote last! Life has been so full that, sadly, this blog had to take the brunt of the busyness, and now I've forgotten how to write. I hope you'll forgive me and work with my growing pains. I'm like someone who has forgotten how to speak, read, walk. The remembering is slow and painful.

It's fitting that this blog is called Turn the Page. I'd forgotten about that too. I started it when I began writing (reading?) one of the most important pages so far. The year 2009 was one of the fullest years of my adult life, in terms of change. I got engaged, was let go of my job, got married, moved into a new home and began a new life, my husband graduated and then found a job, then I graduated from college and a new job fell into my lap. All within a year. God is good. Now the pages are rustling again, and there is a breeze of change ahead. The corners of the next page flutter up, and sometimes I glimpse a word or two, and I am thrilled into the center of my soul.

I have realized recently that I always need change. I crave it and so I create it. I'm a daughter of a military man; change is the fabric of which I'm sewn. If changes don't happen regularly, there is an itchy crawly thought, wiggling the back of my mind, a nearly imperceptible movement out of the corner of my eye, telling me that I'm still exactly like I was last year and such a thing is unacceptable to a thinking, living person. Even if it's just forming a new opinion of some small matter, or discovering a new truth about the world, this is change, and it's necessary if I don't want to stagnate and mold.

Difference, then, comes easily to me. I've formed many habits and thought processes this past year or two, shaping them to be in agreement with my convictions and knowledge. I have changed the way I eat, the way I buy, what I want, how I see material things. At least, I feel like I changed all those things. A beautiful discovery I've made along that journey is that while I write my pages, God is holding the pen along with me, and has been all along. I feel like I am shaping my life and my self, but it's God who convicts, and then gives me the guts to make changes when others think my convictions are strange and must therefore be ignored.
It's nearly 2012 now. I am not one of those people who thinks New Years resolutions are something shallow or crude, something to roll my eyes at. Most years I make a list of things I'd like to do differently in the new year. But that list isn't much different than the one in my mind yearlong. I make changes in my life all the time, I have to, or I would wilt. But what better time than a fresh year to take a look around you, be honest with yourself, and fix what needs fixing?

I plan to get back into the habit of blogging this year. I want to do more work with my hands, sewing and crafting and getting those awful neck aches from looking at small things for too long. I plan to listen to more sermons by pastors I don't know personally. I want to learn the truth of hospitality and generosity, and put that into action, starting with my husband, then radiating out from there.

2012 is going to be full of change. I can feel the soft, subtle breeze from those fluttering pages ahead of me. I am growing older. My pen is ready.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I love me some coconut oil.

Six months ago I bought a gallon of canola oil. Currently it's sitting in my hall closet and hasn't even been opened, because shortly thereafter, I bought a tub of coconut oil!  I've decided that it is a much better choice than canola.

I think canola oil (besides being a newly invented, industrial oil) is smelly and tastes awful. Have you ever tried a spoonful of the stuff? It also smokes up my cast iron pans like crazy, so it's useless when I cook in cast iron (which I've been trying to do more). I can smell a canola-fried food a mile away, and it's a bitter, awful odor. I just really don't like it anymore!

So, instead of canola, I've been using a lot more healthy fats like coconut oil, which is the topic of this post. I love me some real butter too, and use it often. This is not a post about replacing butter! Butter is also full of healthy yummy goodness, and I think it's a great real food to use. I just wanted to share some of the ways I use coconut oil, and why I love it so very much!

By way of introduction, coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees or so, and it is liquid around 80 degrees. It is a very stable oil that doesn't go rancid easily. There are apparently lots of really science-ey reasons why it's healthy -- but I don't like having to be a biologist to understand my food.  If LDL/HDL cholesterol, lauric acid, medium chain fatty acids, and such things excite you, you should probably look it up. Coconut oil is full of healthy saturated fats, and it helps our bodies absorb the nutrients it's eaten with.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"The Adventure of a Lifetime"

Today I'd like to share something that I wrote about a year and a half ago, for one of my final English classes before I graduated. The class was actually something I'd put off for two years; it ended up being the most worthless class I ever took, except for this paper.

The assignment was something like "write about an event in your childhood." Everything in the class seemed to be geared towards sixth graders. The class roster was full of nonmajors who had to take one English class, and had heard this class was easy.

This essay is kind of long, but I hope you read it to the end. Every time I read it, even though I wrote it, for pete's sake, I get teary. This ended up being one of my favorite things I've ever written. It's about a piece of my life, of my family's life really, that most people don't know about, and that we rarely talk about anymore.

"The Adventure of a Lifetime"

Everywhere was wood, beams of wood on the ceiling, slats of wood on the walls, planks of wood on the floors.  Needles of light pierced through in places, illuminating, for a fraction of a second, a million microscopic specks of dust, each one glowing briefly and then returning to its dusky journey through the air.
Everywhere was sound, still singing in my mind to this day, that joyfully creaking floor, the sound of bright and clear quiet, punctuated by whinnies and the shuffling of feet and hooves.  Oh, the sound of peace in the world.  Not utter silence, but the calm chorus of creatures in harmony, man and beast in interdependence.
Everywhere was the fragrance of molasses, of dust on its travels, of shiny, worn leather and ancient trusty woolen blankets, of the creaking wooden floor powdered with bits of hay, alfalfa and manure.  Earth, dung and food mingled in the air to bless us with a sweetly organic and remarkable scent, which has been found no other place in the universe, save for every stable which has ever existed.
An eleven-year-old mind cannot process everything it takes in, but instead, subconsciously stores it all up for later.  As I took in these sights, smells and sounds, my younger sister Johanna stood next to me, both of us on the threshold of a world of new experiences. We stood in the entrance of a stable.  A real horse stable.  On a real horse ranch, and a real horse rider next to us.  Her name was Skye – which was appropriate, since it seemed like Johanna and I had been granted an early pass to heaven itself.  And, as we stepped into the stable, in awe of all its wonders, we knew the pinnacle of our new adventure was yet to come: Skye was going to teach us to ride horses.
It was very cold, that day when we first walked into the stable.  We’d worn our favorite cowboy boots and the black cowgirl hats we’d gotten as gifts; under my embarrassingly not-cowgirl (puffy pink) coat I wore my favorite sweatshirt, a white one adorned with appliqu├ęd cowboy boots.  The luckier of us might have even donned a pair of plastic spurs – we only had one set between us, and we had to share.  
Christmas day had come and gone, but the decorations were still on the walls at home, and the frigid Colorado winds weren’t nearly finished bringing snow to our town.   The holidays were always joyful at our home, but this year had brought a special treat to us Trexel girls, when we were given a year’s worth of horseback riding lessons.  Nothing could have been more appropriate, more desired or more benevolently granted.  Johanna and I lived under a wide Colorado sky, and we had been reared on a good dose of Chris LeDoux and other Cowboy music (totally different from Country music).  Our favorite songs had titles like “Call of the Wild” and “You Can’t See Him From the Road.”  We were more in love with horses, and the freedom and adventure they epitomized, than with anything else in the world.  We collected models of them, subscribed to magazines about them, cut out pictures of them whenever possible, and dreamed of the day we would have one of our own.  Our model horses had creative names: Running Water, Romantic Rosebud, Little Mermaid, Grey Ghost.
The library was of particular interest to us, as it served up an infinite supply of (free!) horse-related literature.  We buried ourselves in the novels of Marguerite Henry, memorized horse breeds and the names of forehead markings, and convinced ourselves that Western, cowboy-style riding was far superior to English style.  Our dad fed our obsession by securing a steady flow of Paint Horse magazines from a coworker who raised that particular breed – she gave us every precious, glossy tome when she finished reading it.  After devouring every word of the articles, we would cut out the best pictures (sometimes the original owner even left the centerfolds for us!) and tape them onto our walls. We watched rodeos with enthusiasm and derby races with detachment – derbies were about horses, but after all, those were English riders who rode in fences and in circles.  In our young minds, Western riding was about wildness and untamed freedom (although the cruelty of keeping panicked horses in rodeo cages never occurred to us). We had been catechized in the theology of Chris Ledoux; English-style riding, fences, country music, perfectly manicured lawns, and everything perfect and restrictive were sheer blasphemy.

Friday, December 31, 2010

sprouting, brewing, fermenting, growing, culturing...a tour of the living foods in our home

This post is linked at Real Food Wednesdays from Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

As I loftily surveyed my kingdom last night (the kitchen/living room/hallway is as much as I can see at once, but it was quite impressive), I thought fondly about the abundance of living things that are growing, brewing, sprouting and fermenting themselves in my home.

It's kind of like having children. I coo at them, talk about how cute they are (those little sprouted tails! adorable!), pamper them, make sure they are at the right temperature, and occasionally put them to 'bed' (in the fridge).  (I also eat them, which is where the children analogy kind of breaks down.) It is a joy to see how foods can, with a simple set of circumstances, transform themselves into another entity altogether....something that is highly nutritious and tasty too. There is a tiny universe of microbes, enzymes, proteins, and nutrients all swirling around, underneath my nose! Cultivating living food is a world of wonder and amazement to me.  And it's so rewarding to see things happen like they should! So I thought I would give you a little photo tour of the living foods currently residing with the Moores.

Let's start with something simple (and not frightening).  Sprouting is fun, easy, and a very simple way to increase the nutritional value of the seeds, legumes and grains we put into our bodies. It's my understanding that without soaking or sprouting, the nutrient 'packet' in grains and seeds (the fuel for the seed to begin growth) will pass through our bodies unused.  During soaking or sprouting, the nutrients are activated/released, and become available for our bodies to absorb and use.
Lentils...

...pinto beans (I think I need to let these grow a little more)...

...and chick peas! These haven't totally sprouted yet, but you can see the little pointy ends where the tails have begun to squirm their way out.

What do I do with these things? Use them the same way I would the unsprouted versions. Just the other day I made "sloppy joes" but used 2/3 sprouted lentils and 1/3 beef.  It was incredibly tasty, and we got the nutrition of both the meat and the lentils.  And since good meat is so pricey, I'm all for the frugalness the lentils offer.  We ate it on plain bread, openface. SO good. We both agreed it should go into our regular rotation! Here's my recipe inspiration for my sloppy joes

Monday, December 13, 2010

Submitting to Authority

On Sunday, our pastor spoke on a few verses at the beginning of Titus chapter 3. We've been going through Titus for quite a while now -- what an incredible book full of practical, REAL wisdom. But I have to say that I felt very convicted about these verses more than any others so far:

 Titus 3:1-2 "...be submissive to rulers and authorities...be obedient...be ready for every good work...speak evil of no one...avoid quarreling...be gentle...show perfect courtesy toward all people."


There it is, unequivocal, that chafing s-word: be SUBMISSIVE to rulers and authorities. The book of Titus is full of commands to be submissive: wives to husbands, slaves to masters. The word for submission in regards to political leaders is no different than the one used by Titus for marriage and social institutions. Which got me thinking...

I haven't been married very long, but I've heard the words "submit to your husband" more than I've heard "marriage is a blessing." (No joke. Sad.) I believe submission is something real, that needs to be practiced. But (we're still newlyweds, okay?) we don't really disagree on stuff. Like almost ever. So, when we're living in harmonious bliss, does that mean submission is nonexistent? It only occurs during disagreement and then goes away?  I think not. That would make it a negative thing, not a force for good! Rather I believe submission is more than gritting my teeth and letting a stubborn hubby have his way. It's also more than bland lazy deference, the doormat syndrome for which many believing women are (justly) maligned by society. No, it's an attitude, a lifestyle, a way of thinking and living that simply respects and honors those above me. I may speak my mind, I may discuss and think, but ultimately I'm under someone else. This kind of submission is a positive force, continuously flowing whether Justin and I are in harmony or disagreement. A forced submission that only rears its head during tension can only be a negative, frustrated, finger-pointing beast. No wonder the world isn't too impressed.

Even if my hubby makes decisions I don't approve of or appreciate, those are still his decisions to make. My role isn't to sit there and seethe at him. It's not to begrudgingly drag my feet, shooting snark and sarcasm. And it's not to woefully bemoan my situation and make a plaintive martyr of myself. It's to respect the institution of marriage because God set it up, and that includes continually -- whether or not we're in disagreement -- honoring Justin and respecting his authority. (After all, it wasn't Justin's idea either.)

Now...apply that line of thought to the government. Here's a telling exercise. Choose someone that just irks you to no end, imagine them as President, and put their name in the paragraph above: "Even if Glenn Beck makes decisions I don't approve of or appreciate, they are still his decisions to make. My role isn't to sit there and seethe at him. It's not to begrudgingly drag my feet, shooting snark and sarcasm. And it's not to woefully bemoan my situation and make a plaintive martyr of myself. It's to respect the institution of government because God set it up, and that includes continually -- whether or not we're in disagreement -- honoring Glenn Beck and respecting his authority."  See? It's downright painful! I could hardly bring myself to type that! Look how wired we are NOT to think this way!